A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region. It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.

In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

But the New Jersey-New York region is relatively seismically stable according to Dr. Dave Robinson, Professor of Geography at Rutgers. Although it does have activity.

„There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,“ said Robinson. „There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.“

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: „The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,“ he said.

„More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,“ according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

In 1884, according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website, the  Rampao Fault was blamed for a 5.5 quake that toppled chimneys in New York City and New Jersey that was felt from Maine to Virginia.

„Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,“ according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

The Growing Threats From the East (Daniel 8)

Major Threat in West Asia

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 28 New Delhi June 29, 2019

Saturday 29 June 2019

by Harish Chandola

India has so far not commented on the danger or possibility of a nuclear war erupting in its neighbourhood, in West Asia, where a very dangerous development is taking shape in the Persian Gulf, to which an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is heading, to be joined by bombers, following unspecified threats from Iran.

This is in retaliation to a statement made by the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, who said his country would no longer abide by the terms of a deal signed with the US and other world powers to limit its nuclear programme in return for economic relief.

Iran is now poised to resume its slow but steady march towards making nuclear bombs, which American National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said any Iranian attack would be met with unrelenting force.

The two sides had signed a nuclear deal four years ago when Barack Obama was the US President. It promised to set back Iranian nuclear programme by more than a decade to break the cycle of threat and counter-threat between them since the Iranian Revolution 40 years ago.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are located in the region, including Iraq, and Iranian naval boats patrol the entire Persian Gulf.

The nuclear deal, called the Joint Compre-hensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was being complied with by Iran, but critics of it in the US complained that temporary restrictions on it would ultimately legitimise Iran to produce missiles.

US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the agreement last year, calling it a disaster and renewed sanctions. He cancelled waivers to let some countries continue buying Iranian oil and punish those that trade with it.

India is one that buys Iranian oil. It has said nothing whether it will continue buying.

Iranian President Rouhani hoped that European countries would honour the deal. He said his country would begin stockpiling low enriched uranium and heavy water in sufficient quantities and would not accept any limit on Iranian enrichment, which suggests that it will move closer to building a nuclear bomb. This would please hardliners in his country. It is also trying to stop European countries from following the US. He may not succeed.

American troops are not far from the Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. Its warships are also close to the Iranian patrol boats in the Gulf. America recently declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group. Iranians also called the American forces the same. Bolton recently wrote an article in the New York Times, entitled “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”

Bombing would not destroy Iranian nuclear know-how. It would drive its programme underground, making it more dangerous.

The US has Israel with it in the region.

At the moment the chances of negotiations between the US and Iran on the subject appear limited, though America is trying to use Switzerland for a possible venue for talks with Tehran.

India has said nothing on how it is viewing this threat in its neighbourhood.

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 28 New Delhi June 29, 2019

Sunday 30 June 2019

by Rajaram Panda

As if the North Korean issue where United States President Donald Trump burned much of midnight oil with words such as “fire and fury”, “totally destroy” flew with impunity only to be matched by “dotard”, “evil man” by the North Korean leader Kim Jung-un but ending with two summits in June 2018 in Singapore and in February 2019 in Hanoi, both with no result, leaving the de-nuclearisation issue in the limbo, the American President in a dramatic turnaround withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018, the nuclear deal reached with Iran along with Germany, France, the UK and the European Union, and imposing fresh draconian economic sanctions, thereby raising tensions in the Middle East. With the endorsement of Trump, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo travelled to Tehran on June 12-14, 2019 offering to mediate the stand-off between Tehran and Washington. That yielded no positive outcome.

Abe’s peace mission showed a flicker of hope, at least a temporary thaw. But the attacks on two tankers, Kokuka Courageous owned by a Japanese company Kokuka Sangyo and transporting methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, and Front Altair, owned by Norway’s Frontline, and carrying a Taiwan-bound cargo of 75,000 tons of petrochemical feedstock naphtha picked up from Ruwais in the UAE, even when Abe was in Tehran, a solution looked suddenly like a mirage.

Tensions have risen since Trump demanded Tehran curb its military programmes and influence in the Middle East, and pulled the US out of a deal between Iran and the global powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran has repeatedly warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot sell its oil because of US sanctions.

The blast that struck the Kokuka Courageous is suspected to have been caused by a magnetic mine and was hit twice over a period of three-hours. Front Altair was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo”. Though accusations and counter-accusations flew around, the issue of safety of marine transport assumed priority in the Middle East and took centre-stage. Though whosoever was responsible for this despicable acts, attacks on civilian vessels threatened to disrupt stable supply of energy, impinging on the economies of several resource-importing nations. The attacks on oil tankers quickly drove oil prices up by four per cent over worries about supplies from the region.

The most worrying part of this development is that the two tankers were attacked as they navigated through the sea off Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East. The geographic positioning of the Strait of Hormuz is of huge strategic importance in the global maritime trade. It is positioned as the main artery for global crude oil transport. Most of the crude oil imported by Japan from the Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE transit through the Strait of Hormuz, positioning the strait as a lifeline for Japan’s energy supply.

In an emergency session, the UN Security Council members condemned the attacks as violations of international law. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the UN Security Council on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States that the world cannot afford “a major confrontation in the Gulf region”. The Council discussed the attacks behind closed doors at the request of the United States. The Japanese Government issued an advisory to Japan-related vessels navigating through waters near the scene of attacks and called for efforts to ensure the safe navigation of ships by conducting information-gathering activities.

Strategic Importance of Strait of Hormuz

The explosions occurred near the Strait of Hormuz, which serves as a crucial passageway for much of the oil from Gulf States. At its narrowest it measures a mere 21 nautical miles, yet in 2016 it ushered through some 18.5 million barrels of oil per day, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Those numbers make it an important choke-point; any conflict there would have a staggering effect on trade.

As a crucial gateway, the Strait of Hormuz is a place through which almost a third of all crude oil and other petroleum products transit. The recent attacks on tankers have raised fears that the route is vulnerable to assaults and that it could threaten and destabilise oil prices. The Strait of Hormuz lies between Oman and Iran. It links the Gulf north of it with the Gulf of Oman to the south and the Arabian Sea beyond. A skinny waterway, 33 km wide at its narrowest point, and with the shipping lane spanning just 3 km wide in either direction. Almost one-fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait, some 17.4 million barrels per day in 2018. The bulk of this traffic heads for Asian markets like China, India and Japan. OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq export most of their crude via the Strait. Qatar, the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas exporter, sends all of its LNG through the Strait. There are few alternative routes.

Blaming Iran

The US lost no time in accusing Iran behind the attacks, just as it was in the case of four tankers off the coast of the UAE, including those from Saudi Arabia, attacked in May, a charge Tehran denied. Washington released a video showing a boat belonging to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard for approaching the stricken Japanese vessel and carrying out some operations, explaining that the unit was “removing an unexploded limpet mine” from the attacked vessel.

A Pentagon statement blamed Iran behind the attack. Calling the attacks “a blatant assault”, Pompeo alleged “terror, bloodshed and extortion” as part of the Iranian strategy. Denying involvement, Tehran called the charges as “ridiculous” and “dangerous” and the US claim as groundless. It accused the US of waging an “Iranophobic” campaign. So far, there has been no concrete evidence as to who conducted the attacks and for what purposes or that how the attacks were committed. During the time when Abe was in Tehran mediating in order to ease tensions between the US and Iran, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayotollah Ali Khamenei refused to have any dialogue with Washington, telling Abe that Tehran would not repeat its “bitter experience” of negotiating with the US. American and European security officials as well as regional analysts cautioned against jumping to conclusions, leaving open the possibility that Iranian proxies or someone else might have been entirely responsible.

 From his side, Trump has shown no sign of softening his stance, saying that it is too early to make a deal. Unless Washington softens its hardline stance and Tehran shows some restraint, the fear of an accidental clash could become real. While the US sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region, Iran has threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. Washington said the deployment of about 1000 more troops to the Middle East were only for “defensive purposes”. In the event the situation in the region gets further destabilised, it could lead to spikes in crude oil prices, dealing a great blow to the global economy. Abe’s mediatory role having yielded little result, either side should recognise the weight of their responsi-bilities in the interest of regional and world peace and seek mutually acceptable solution, with or without outside mediation. TheTimes of India observed in an editorial on June 20 thus: “US military intervention at this stage, perhaps driven by the old and discredited neo-conser-vative agenda of regime change and forcible export of democracy, would be disastrous. It would be a replay of the Iraq fiasco which destabilised the global order, gave rise to IS and pushed Russia into adopting an aggressive stance.”

With the escalation of tensions, Iran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord that Trump repudiated in 2018. In the deal, Tehran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. Now, Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if European nations do not offer it new terms to the deal by July 7. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation has said it has quadrupled the rate of enrichment and will breach the stockpile limit soon, unless other parties fulfil their commitments as per the 2015 deal. Any such breach would raise already heightened tensions between Iran and the US. Trump has said he is ready to take military action to stop Tehran getting a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, US sanctions have cut off opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water abroad, putting Tehran on course to violate terms of the nuclear deal regardless.

Reactions on Tanker Attacks

As soon as the news of the attacks on two tankers in the Sea of Oman emerged, a flurry of international reactions poured in from various countries, companies, and political figures as well as financial markets. Russia warned against rushing to apportion blame for the suspected attacks, saying that the incident should not be used to stoke tensions with Iran. While voicing the events as tragic, Russia warned that it should not be used speculatively in order to avoid further aggravating the situation in an anti-Iranian sense. Russia’s reaction was a counter to Trump’s attempts to use this to rally countries in the world in an antagonistic manner and to further tighten draconian sanctions against Tehran.

The incident spiked oil prices by as much as four per cent. International bonds issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council states weakened, pointing to apparent investor apprehension.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the world cannot afford “a major confrontation in the (Persian) Gulf region”. EU urged “maximum restraint”. Germany stressed ‘de-escalation’, saying the development was “extremely worrying”. France urged ‘restraint’ from all actors, stressing the need for respect for “freedom of navigation”. Kuwait reported normal maritime operation and expressed readiness for any emergency precautionary measures to ensure the safe operation of its fleet. In the meantime, owner of Front Altair, one of the vessels involved, denied the vessel sank and said the Norwegian tanker was still afloat.

Iran’s nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said that “The countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time [June 27] … we will pass this limit.” But he said Iran would be open to going back to observing the limit if it gets help from other signatories to the agreement in circumventing US sanctions on its vital oil industry. US called Iran’s plan to surpass an internationally agreed limit on its stock of low-enriched uranium “nuclear blackmail” and that it would be met with increased international pressure. So, things are getting messy.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed regrets on the Iranian announcement, urging Tehran “to behave in a way that is patient and responsible”. Britain said if Iran exceeds the nuclear limits it would consider “all options”. It may be recalled that Britain and France signed the deal with Iran, along with China, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Iran is angry that the other parties to the nuclear agreement have not done enough to help the battered Iranian economy recover from the sanctions while still insisting Iran keep its part of the bargain. Trump called the 2015 agreement “horrible”, saying that he would like to negotiate a new one. But the United Nations atomic watchdog agency says Iran continued to meet the terms of the 2015 pact. While Washington has pulled out of the deal, the other signatories have not. So, Trump has complicated things by his unilateral decision. Amid rising tensions, Iran has said that it would not initiate a war but will give a crushing response to any aggression.

The statement made by the US Central Command that the US has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East makes sense. He observed: “We will defend our interests, but a war with Iran is not in our strategic interest, nor in the best interest of the international community.”

Oman and the UAE, which both have coastlines along the Gulf of Oman, did not immediately issue any public comment. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both majority Sunni Muslim nations with a long-running rivalry with predominantly Shi’ite Iran, have previously said attacks on oil assets in the Gulf pose a risk to global oil supplies and regional security.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the timing of the attacks was “suspicious”, because a Japanese tanker was hit while Prime Minister Abe was in Tehran seeking to defuse US-Iran tensions. After Trump acted at the beginning of May forcing Iran’s oil customers to slash their imports to zero or face draconian US financial sanctions, Iran’s oil exports have dropped to around 400,000 barrels per day in May from 2.5 million bpd in April 2018.

If the US commits itself to make economic and diplomatic efforts unilaterally to bring Iran back to the negotiations on a broader deal, it would not cut any ice with Tehran. Trump abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal successfully negotiated by former President Barack Obama as he wanted Iran to curb not merely its nuclear work but also its development of missiles and its support for proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Notwithstanding the suspicions aimed at Iran behind the attacks on the two tankers without any conclusive proof, it is argued that if Iran indeed was behind the attack, it could have been that it was trying to acquire negotiating leverage and perhaps increase global pressure for US-Iran talks. Though there is always the possibility that somebody shall blame the Iranians, it is also possible that this “represents an effort to bolster Iranian diplomacy by creating a perceived international urgency to have the United States and Iran talk”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told that the US assessment of Iran’s involvement was based in part on intelligence, as well as the expertise needed for the operation. It was also based on recent incidents in the region, which the US also blamed on Iran, including the use of limpet mines in the Fujairah attack. He also tied Iran to a drone attack by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on a crucial Saudi oil pipeline around the same time. Based on these, Pompeo observed: “Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran.”

The attacks on the oil tankers, including one —Kokuka Courageous—owned by the Japanese, came less than a day after Abe made a rare conciliatory visit to Tehran seeking dialogue. It was indeed a tough moment for Abe. The US and its Persian Gulf allies, led by Saudi Arabia, have mounted a steady campaign of diplomatic isolation and economic punishment of Iran, which they blame for militancy in the Middle East. Egypt too called for the perpetrators to face “all legal responsibility”.

Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, is a bitter rival of Iran. An arch rival of Iran in the region on religious lines, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, accused Iran and announced his country’s preparedness to deal with any threat to his people, territorial soverei-gnty and other vital interests of the country.

Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the US, and if it cannot sell its oil because of US sanctions. Doing so would disrupt oil tankers travelling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes. As a major importer of crude from the region, Japan is concerned and has urged the international community to jointly deal with the issue of energy security.

Opinions in the US are divided. Some senior US officers hold the view that the Trump Adminis-tration is moving too quickly towards retaliating, possibly with military force without building a public case that Tehran was responsible. There are others who are of the opinion that the Trump Administration should seek to build international support for steps to safeguard shipping traffic, using naval ships from the US and other countries to escort tankers and other vessels through the Persian Gulf and into the Arabian Sea. Though Pentagon officials are worried that Iran and its proxies could conduct its own reprisals against US forces or allies in the region if Washington escalates the confrontation, the US would find itself in a situation that it is at war with Iran to defend its strategic interest but that would not be in the best interest of the international community. The Trump Administration is best aware that heavy reliance on military pressure, sanctions and other tactics against Iran carry risks that it can ill-afford to take. Any miscalcu-lation or misunderstanding risks a spiral towards a more direct confrontation.

Amid conflicting accounts of the attacks, it seems irrational to accuse Iran behind the attack, especially when Abe was on a peace mission in Tehran. But then, Iran is not always a rational actor either. Writing for the Bloomberg, Bobby Ghosh argues that Tehran could have seen Abe as merely as an emissary for Trump, and therefore striking a Japanese tanker could have been a message to him. Seen another way, Iran might have seen this as the best way to fight back against sanctions and gain leverage in talks. If this is the case, Iran’s acts would have been anything but rational.

James Stavridis of the Bloomberg, however, thinks differently. According to him, Iran is the likely culprit and the US should work hard to avoid military confrontation by bringing more allies to its own side and ratcheting up pressure by other means. He also agrees that Iran is not driven by pure reason, which would make more attacks and still more tension possible. Keeping the Strait of Hormuz open is going to be the biggest challenge for the US and its allies, as well as the oil importing nations.

Would a global alliance deter Iran from attacks at sea? At least Trump thinks so. But that is not easy. Given the threat perception, it will be immature to discount Tehran going the Pyongyang way if its sovereignty comes under assault or at least if Tehran perceives such an attack. Tehran’s announce-ment of breaching the nuclear-stockpile cap imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal by July 8 and threats to enrich uranium beyond a 3.67 per cent limit, meant to prevent it from making weapon-grade material, if the European signatories do not move quickly to save the deal is another bother. Though the European signatories—Germany, France, the UK and the European Union—remained vocally supportive of the nuclear pact, and continued to criticise the US for abrogating it in 2018, they have rejected the ultimatum issued by Tehran, saying that they would not keep the deal alive under Tehran’s threats. If considered from all possible sides, it is Trump who is responsible for having created this mess and has proved to be the biggest disrupter of global rules.

There is also a possibility that Iran would not have been too immature to poke the American bear and therefore the likely culprit could have been some actor that wants US-Iran tension to rise. It is also possible that Iran wanted to choke off the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz as an attempt to strike back at the word of sanctions, particularly aimed at the US. Though oil prices that had fallen in the wake of rising tensions soon rebounded after the attacks, the main concern is that apart from the free passage of oil through Hormuz, a quarter of the world’s liquidised natural gas travels that way too. A prolonged conflict could have debilitating conse-quences on LNG trade throughout the world.

Regardless of whether Iran was responsible for damage to vessels in the Sea of Oman, it still gets the blame, with or without any conclusive proof, and suffers the fallout, observes oil strategist Julian Lee in a Bloomberg opinion piece. Trump just needs an alibi to fix Iran without any valid reason. This does not mean to suggest that the attacks are justified. Far from it, the acts are condemnable and the international community and all stakeholders need to find out the person(s)/country(ies) responsible and bring them to justice. But whosoever is held accountable ought to suffer the consequences.

The moot question is: who gains from these attacks? If Iran directly or through proxies is behind the acts, it sends a message that transit through the world’s most important choke-point for global oil flows is not safe without its consent. If Trump thinks to cajole Iran with crippling economic sanctions to bring it to its knees, Trump would be living in a fool’s paradise as Iran is not expected to acquiesce quietly. While other nations in the region will bear the cost of disruptions to their own oil exports, the US and its allies will have to cope with higher crude prices and disruptions to supplies. Considered from all accounts, whosoever is behind the attacks is no friend of Iran as the Iranian leadership would be least expected to insult a guest from Japan on a peace mission to attack the tanker while he was on Iranian soil.

Trump might feel free to keep all his options open, including military strike, but he should be best advised to think about the consequences for which he alone would be responsible. The world would not pardon him for creating the mess. The US would have lost its ability to protect and defend freedom of navigation through diplomatic means. Claiming to avoid a war and sticking to a confrontationist posture at the same time do not gel well in international diplomacy. Putting more pressure on Iran would only enhance the probability of a US-Iran conflict in the Gulf which would be in nobody’s interest. Khamenei was candid when he told Abe that his country would not repeat its “bitter experience” of talks with the US. Trump is best advised to understand the significance of this statement and accordingly craft his policy for the region.

Dr Rajaram Panda, a former Senior Fellow at IDSA and until recently the ICCR India Chair Visiting Professor at Reitaku University, Japan, is currently a Lok Sabha Research Fellow, New Delhi. He can be contacted at e-mail: rajaram.panda[at]gmail.com  

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 28 New Delhi June 29, 2019

Sunday 30 June 2019, by Arun Kumar

The former Chief Economic Advisor, Dr Arvind Subramanian, has set the cat among the pigeons by coming out with a paper (referred to as AS below) showing that the Indian GDP growth has been over-estimated in the period 2011-12 to 2016-17 by 2.5 per cent. So, the average growth rate during this period, instead of being seven per cent, would be 4.5 per cent. More accurately between 3.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent.

Some have confused this with the latest GDP growth data showing the Indian economy slowing down to 5.8 per cent. AS is not talking of this slowing down of the economy but of mis-estimation during the earlier years up to 2016-17. If the AS analysis can be extended, the current rate of growth may turn to be close to 3.3 per cent. AS should also not be confused with the controversy regarding the incorrectly specified unorganised sector data used in calculating the current GDP.

So, what is AS about? It uses a methodology different from the usual one used to estimate the GDP and its growth rate. Why was this required? The usual way divides the economy into sectors and adds up the contribution of each of them to get the total size of the economy. There are nine major sectors in the economy with each divided into public and private sectors and organised and unorganised sectors. So, one is talking of 27 sectors because the public sector is an entirely organised sector. There is need for data for each of these sectors and also a method for estimating their contribution to the GDP. Why go for a different method when such an elaborate method is used by the statistical department of the government?

Ever since January 2015, controversy has dogged the GDP and its growth. The base year for calculating the GDP is changed periodically and this was changed to 2011-12 (from the earlier 2004-05). The results for the new series were declared in January 2015 when the NDA Government was in power. This new series showed a sharp jump in the growth rate of the economy. Even the dismal performance during the UPA-II years looked better. The NDA performance distinctly looked better than what people remembered as the UPA performance. They did not look at the improved figures of the UPA years, so the NDA took credit for the economic recovery.

But there was no back series before 2011-12, so one could not tell if the earlier performance was also better. Many experts also questioned the new data because the economy did not seem to be doing so well; at seven to eight per cent rate of growth there should have been feel good all around but that was missing. Within the committee which had recommended the use of the new data base for the private firms (called MCA21) there were disagreements. There were companies that were not filing returns, benami companies, etc. So, the data needed closer scrutiny. How were the companies which were not filing returns to be counted and what would be the implication of existence of a large number of fictitious companies called ‘shell companies’? A blowing-up factor was applied to account for these companies but critics felt that this could give an upward bias to the GDP calculations.

A committee of the National Statistical Commission came up with a back series in 2018. But the government did not like it since it showed better performance under UPA-I and II than under NDA-II. To construct this back series a new methodology was adopted since the data was not available for the earlier period. The government rejected it.

The government later in 2018 came out with another series which showed that the perfor-mance under NDA-II was better than under UPA-I and II. Such a switch in results is always possible since the GDP is an estimate based on many assumptions. One can choose different assumptions to come up with different results. Be that as it may, this was seen as a politically motivated GDP series. What strained credulity was that the GDP growth was shown to be the highest during the year of demonetisation—8.2 per cent in 2016-17. By all accounts the economy had tanked that year with decline in employ-ment, investment, credit off-take and rise in work demanded under MGNREGS by workers losing work in urban areas and returning to rural areas. The government withheld employ-ment data till after the elections since it showed unemployment reaching a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent. Data on employment generated by MUDRA loans and farmers’ suicide data since 2016 have not yet been released.

Now in 2019, it has been revealed that the MCA data has 38.6 per cent ‘out of survey’ companies. The initial fear of the experts that the use of MCA data base may lead to over- estimation was being validated. So, the new GDP series has faced five controversies. These are difficult to resolve since one cannot go back and collect data of the past again.

Consequently, to settle the doubts a new method has to be found to estimate the GDP. One can look for variables which can predict the GDP well. Also, one can look for the inter-national experience in the matter, as AS has done.

The government has come out with guns blazing trying to discredit AS’s method and the results. Certainly the method can be criticised because of several infirmities pointed out by this author in the last three years. Like, the missing unorganised sector data, especially after the three shocks administered to the economy since 2016 November—demonetisation, GST and the NBFC crisis—and the missing black economy data. Further, the Indian economy is unlike any other economy since it has a huge unorganised sector, so comparisons with other economies can be erroneous. But these issues can wait till AS is analysed in detail.

As the government was embarrassed so its spokespersons started attacking AS. First, they say that the change in base year to 2011-12 was based on expert advice. Of course, but there was unsettled controversy among experts which is now proving to be damaging to the official series. Second, it is said that the new series follows the UN mandated methodology (of 2008). But that methodology does not justify the use of an erroneous data base or tweaking the services sector in such a way as to show higher growth in some periods and lower growth in other periods. Third, in support of the official data it is argued that experts from the IMF and World Bank have accepted the new series. But they are not data gathering agencies and have to accept the data given to them by the government. This is not independent corroboration of data. Fourth, it is said that base change is a normal process of GDP estimation. But AS is not objecting to base change. The issue is what data base should be used to estimate the GDP. Certainly not one which has large errors in it.

Fifth, it is argued that a larger data base is being used. But, no one is saying that a better data base should not be used. What is being said is that the newer data base is erroneous, hence not necessarily better. It should be used after the errors are fixed. Sixth, official estimate is said to be based on accepted methodologies. But, the criticism is of the assumptions being suitably chosen so that the method does not remain objective as officially claimed. Seventh, the official position is that AS is attempting to sensationalise the matter. So, if one finds errors should one keep quiet? More importantly, can one make policies with incorrect data and should not one apply correctives as soon as possible? Finally, it is asked, why did Dr Subramanian not object to the GDP data while he was in office as the CEA? But, he did express doubt in the 2015 Economic Survey. As a responsible government officer could he have done more? If he had resigned would that not have created a much bigger stink?

In brief, this is not the time to raise false issues around a new way of estimating the GDP, even if it is itself erroneous. The need is to grapple with the more serious issue of what is Indian economy’s more correct growth rate.

After all, polices depend on the correct figures.

The author, an eminent economist, is the Malcolm Adiseshiah Chair Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. He is the author of Indian Economy Since Independence: Persisting Colonial Disruption, published by Vision Books. He can be contacted at e-mail: nuramarku[at]gmail.com and arunkumar1000[at]hotmail.com

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 28 New Delhi June 29, 2019

Sunday 30 June 2019, by SC


In the midst of the intense gloom that has engulfed secular democrats of all hues of late following the return to power for the next five years of the present-day BJP run by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, the parliamentary proceedings in the Budget session were enlivened by a few memorable speeches from the Opposition benches. One of them was that of Mohua Moitra, a newly-elected Trinamul Congress MP from the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency of West Bengal. While underscoring a “ten-fold increase in the number of hate crimes between 2014 and 2019” she added: “The lynching of citizens in broad daylight is being condoned. From Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan last year to Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand yesterday (June 24, 2019) the list is not stopping.”

Significantly in his customary reply to the discussion on the President’s address to Parliament, PM Narendra Modi was compelled to speak out on the Jaharkhand lynching incident. While asserting that all such violence, whether in Jharkhand, West Bengal or Kerala, must invite uniform condemnation, he said: “The incident (Jhar-khand lynching) has pained all of us, including myself. The culprits must get the strictest punishment.” However, such statements have no value if words are not followed up by deeds. As far as Modi is concerned, his earlier pronouncements on similar incidents did not carry weight as those turned out to be nothing short of lip-service.

However, the lynching of Tabrez Ansari has been widely denounced by all sections, both Muslims and non-Muslims, in Parliament and outside. Lok Sabha experienced uproarious scenes on the issue yesterday. Raising the matter during zero hour, Trinamul Congress leader Saugata Roy called it a blot on humanity and demanded that the BJP should look into the affairs of the States ruled by it. In his words: “BJP members are speaking about West Bengal but not taking steps on what is happening in Jharkhand and other places. This is an example of religious intolerance and TMC will continue to protest against mob lynching.” He further told the Lower House that it was a clear case of “cold-blooded murder” since Tabrez, who had sustained severe head injuries, was kept in custody for four days (obviously without getting medical treatment).

Not only Saugata, several Muslim MPs, Azam Khan, Barrister Asaduddin Owaisi, Shafiqur Rahman Barq joined him in demanding justice for Tabrez.

Outside Parliament too there have been largescale protests by several organisations including the Social Democratic Party of India as well as United Against Hate. Such protests took place in the Capital’s Jantar Mantar and Jharkhand State Bhavan. Demonstrators carried placards declaring: “We can‘t turn Hindustan into Lynchistan”.

The public protests on this issue are a clear manifestation of the people’s growing anger at the way the BJP is functioning following its massive victory at the hustings this year.

To ignore such mass opposition to the BJP’s manner of operation would be disastrous for the country’s ruling party in the days ahead.

June 27 S.C.

Babylon the Great Sends More Military Backup to Iran

US deploys F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to Qatar in midst of Iran tensions

June 29, 2019

Qatar, June 29: The United States on Saturday deployed F-22 stealth fighter jets to Qatar, the American military said it was for the first time, in the midst of rising tensions with Iran in the region.

According to Al-Jazeera news reports, the Air Force Central Command, in an official statement, said the US air force F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were deployed “to defend American forces and interests” in the region. However, it did not provide further details about how many of the hi-tech planes has been sent.

United States President Donald Trump has on Monday signed an order targeting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other eight senior military officials in a provocative move to ratchet up pressure on Tehran. Trump told reporters the sanctions would prevent Khamenei and his sanctioned officials to financial resources.

Last week, the US president abruptly called off his order of military strikes against Iran for downing an unmanned American spy drone on Thursday. The Trump administration also blames the Islamic Republic for the recent attacks over oil facilities and vessels near the Gulf of Oman, which Tehran strongly denies any wrongdoing.

Iran said the US sanctions imposed over supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and some eight army officials means the permanent end of diplomacy between Washington and Tehran.

World powers are currently in a “last chance” to warn Iran to remain committed to its compliances under the landmark 2015 international nuclear pact, INF Treaty, when they will hold a meeting on Friday, but Tehran is feeling low pressure from the US sanctions expectations, according to diplomats.

Top-level diplomats from China, Britain, Russia, Germany, and France meet with the Iranian officials on Friday in Vienna, while Tehran threatening to exceed its limit of enriched uranium what the nation was allowed under the accord, raising fears of military escalation in the region.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi has described the dialogues as the “last chance for the remaining parties … to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran”.

United Nations Tramples Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11

Southern residents to turn to UN to protest incendiary balloons


IDF firefighters extinguishing a fire in Gaza Envelope in south Israel, one of 25 fires in the region today, caused by incendiary balloons, sent by terrorists from Gaza. Gaza Envelope, Jun 27, 2019 (photo credit: AVIV HERTZ/ TPS)

Despite a reported agreement between Hamas and Israel, 14 fires were sparked by incendiary balloons on Friday. Another 2 fires were caused by balloons on Saturday.

Residents of Israel’s south have decided to turn to the United Nations concerning the waves of incendiary balloons that have been launched from Gaza towards Israeli communities near the Strip, according to Channel 12.

Heads of the regional councils near the Gaza border and residents of communities in the area are looking into the legal options for turning to the UN in order to protest the disruptions and human rights violations carried out by the Hamas terror organization against residents of southern Israel. 

“I’m from a community near the Gaza Strip and I feel invisible,” said one resident in a video by the Unity with the South protest group. “I feel like the rest of the country doesn’t see me.”

“Right wing people say that I deserve this because of the disengagement. Left wing people say that I deserve this because I voted for Bibi (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu),” she added. “We’re been shields for the state for years and I feel like we’re the body bags of the state.”

Despite a reported agreement between Hamas and Israel, 14 fires were sparked by incendiary balloons on Friday. Another 2 fires were caused by balloons on Saturday, according to a spokesman for Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services.

100 fires were reported in total in the past week, but no government officials even visited the area or discussed the issue with the heads of regional councils in the area, according to Channel 13.

On Friday, some 7,000 Palestinians violently demonstrated along the border where an IDF jeep caught fire after a Molotov cocktail hit it. There were no reports of Israeli injuries.

IDF troops used riot dispersal means against the protesters, including live fire. At least 49 Palestinians were injured. Eight medics and one journalist were also reported as injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Israel expanding the Gaza fishing zone up to 15 nautical miles at 10 a.m. and agreeing to return 60 confiscated boats. Israel also agreed to resume fuel delivery to the blockaded strip with a reported four trucks transporting more than 150,000 liters of fuel. Israel had stopped the fuel shipments on Tuesday after more than 100 fires broke out due to incendiary balloons. Two weeks ago, Israel imposed a full maritime blockade on the coastal enclave.

As part of the understanding, Hamas is said to have committed to preventing the launch of the aerial incendiary devices and ensuring that the border protests are nonviolent.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.

The Challenges of the China Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Arms Racing With China: Tactical Nuclear Weapons

An accelerating arms race will determine the contest for strategic primacy between the United States and China. Perceptions of American weakness could tempt China to risk war. At stake is whether future generations benefit from a prevailing liberal democratic order or become enveloped by a spreading illiberal anti-democratic order organized, led, and armed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  

This first article in the series “Arms Racing with China” will explore the U.S.-China balance in tactical nuclear weapons. Very little is said publicly by U.S. or Chinese sources regarding China’s tactical nuclear weapons arsenal, but available sources should be considered as some in the U.S. Congress rise to oppose the Trump Administration effort to develop new tactical nuclear weapons for the United States.

It is almost certain that the Trump Administration is going to withdraw the United States from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the former Soviet Union, which banned theater range nuclear ballistic and cruise missiles, and set the stage for significant U.S. Post-Cold War tactical nuclear reductions in the 1990s. The main reason for the withdrawal is that Russia is again building theater-range nuclear missiles, while maintaining an estimated 1,000 to 6,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons. But in addition, not constrained by INF Treaty membership, China has built close to 2,000 theater range missiles according to U.S. officials.

Most of China’s missiles are known to be dual-capable, able to be armed with nuclear or a variety of non-nuclear warheads. China has never revealed its number of theater or tactical nuclear weapons and may never do so, in accordance with longstanding policies which reject Western-style military transparency.  But surprisingly, in 20 years of publication neither has the Pentagon’s annual Congressionally-mandated China Military Power Report.

Perhaps the only credible Western estimate regarding China’s tactical nuclear weapons is from a 2012 Russian source. That year former Chief of Staff of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, General Victor Esin, published what still stands today as one of the most revealing assessments of China’s nuclear and missile forces. General Esin very likely relied on official Russian intelligence sources for his numbers.

Translated by the Northern Virginia-based Potomac Foundation, General Esin’s estimates included: 210 warheads for shorter range missiles like the 1,500km range DH-10 ground-launched cruise missiles, the 600km range DF-15, and the 300km range DF-11 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). Esin also estimated that 320 tactical nuclear bombs were reserved for strike aircraft and 120 bombs were dedicated to bombers, like the Xian H-6.

Assuming General Esin’s estimates are correct, this would add up to a possible total of 650 tactical nuclear weapons available for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). But the PLA is also nearing deployment of hypersonic missiles, is testing a new medium-range air launched ballistic missile, has already developed multiple versions of second-generation SRBMs, and is developing a new regional stealth bomber—all of which will increase the credibility of its tactical nuclear forces.

America’s recent record regarding tactical nuclear weapons has been one of steep reductions. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) non-strategic U.S. nuclear weapons declined from less than 6,000 in the mid-1980s to less than 1,000 in the mid-1990s. In the early 1990s, the George W. Bush Administration withdrew U.S. tactical nuclear weapons based in Asia, removed tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. Navy warships, and retired all U.S. Army 155mm tactical nuclear artillery shells.

From 2010 to 2013 the Obama Administration destroyed the remaining U.S. theater tactical nuclear cruise missiles kept in land-storage, the submarine-launched tactical nuclear Tomahawk (TLAM-N). According to the CRS, today the United States has about 500 tactical nuclear bombs, with as many as 200 deployed in Europe and the rest stored stateside. However, these rely on aircraft delivery platforms that today are very vulnerable to Russian and Chinese Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS).

China’s IADS is perhaps the most formidable in the world. China regularly touts its array of modern radar capable of detecting stealth aircraft like the Lockheed Martin F-35—soon to be the main designated tactical nuclear bomb delivery platform for U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air forces. China’s People’s Liberation Army is now developing a Joint IADS that combines the air defense forces of all its component services.

This year China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is deploying its most modern and capable Russian-made 4th generation S-400 surface-to-air-missiles (SAMs). When considering SAM launcher reloads, it is possible to estimate that the PLA has over 4,000 difficult to jam or evade 4th generation SAMs in land bases and on warships.

If we take General Esin’s estimates plus the PLA’s advanced IADS seriously, then the PLA has considerable scope to engage in nuclear coercion or non-strategic nuclear warfare. This undermines the credibility of the U.S. “extended nuclear deterrent,” offered to U.S. allies and friends in Asia to deter Chinese and Russian attack, and to convince allies and friends to forego their own nuclear weapons.

For example, should North Korea instigate a nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula requiring commitment of most U.S. forces in the region, then China could consider that simply demonstrating tactical nuclear weapons near Taiwan or near U.S. forces based in Japan, could force U.S. political concessions fatal for Taiwan. American forces may not be able to match a Chinese low-yield tactical nuclear weapon demonstration.

Washington might be reluctant to use strategic nuclear forces that may be needed to scare North Korea, or to deter a combined Chinese-Russian nuclear coercion exercise. Furthermore, China’s advanced air defense networks would be alert to defeating any slow U.S. tactical aircraft armed with nuclear bombs.

China’s lack of transparency regarding it tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, and a potential imbalance in the numbers of U.S. and Chinese tactical nuclear weapons, would appear to justify rearming U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force units with sufficient new hypersonic, ballistic and cruise missiles, offering far more confidence in delivering tactical nuclear weapons to deter their use by China.

So far the Trump Administration proposes to build a new nuclear armed sea-launched cruise missile and the new W-76-2 low-yield tactical nuclear warhead intended for delivery by long-range missiles. These systems and much more are required if the United States is to successfully deter Chinese and Russian aggression that could begin early in the next decade.

Richard D. Fisher, Jr. is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Potomac, Maryland. 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

The Awesome Russian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Russia Plans to Build Four Submarines Armed with Nuclear Drone-Torpedoes

For decades, submarine nuclear deterrence has been uniquely provided by the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), designed to loft missiles from beneath the waves into space before releasing multiple nuclear warheads that rain hellfire on cities and military bases below. SSBNs can remain submerged basically indefinitely thanks to their nuclear reactors, and are thus unlikely to be all hunted down prior to launch orders being issued.

However, while Russia is planning to fully replace its older SSBNs with eight ultra-quiet Borei-class boats (detailed in a companion article), it is embarking on a radical new direction by also ordering four Khabarovsk-class nuclear-powered submarine drone-torpedo carriers, or SSDNs.

The Poseidon drone torpedo, also codenamed Status-6 by Russia and Kanyon by NATO, was for years the subject of rumor and skepticism, seeming too fantastical to be real. But by 2016, Pentagon reports confirmed the torpedo’s existence, and in March 2018 Putin publicly unveiled a 3D-animated video showing Poseidon attacking a city and a carrier task force. Later, real-life footage of a Poseidon being launched was released as well.

No Western source has better documented and collected imagery of Poseidon and its launch platforms than naval analyst H.I. Sutton, whose years of open-source research substantially informed this piece.

By now, two submarines appear to have been built specifically to launch the Poseidon, starting with the Sarov, an experimental diesel-electric submarine with a small nuclear-reactor dedicated to charging its batteries.

Then in April 2019, Russia launched the Project 9852 Belgorod, an extremely versatile “special-projects” submarine adapted from the hull of an unfinished Oscar-II class cruise missile submarine. The Belgorod is a massive one-of-a-kind vessel that can launch unmanned Klavesin-2R underwater drone submarines (UUVs), dock manned Losharik mini-submarines on its belly which can tap into underwater communication cables or perform spy missions, and it has six gigantic tubes in its bow for launching Poseidon torpedoes

However, Russia has announced it plans to field thirty-two Poseidon torpedoes, and the Belgorod’s Swiss-Army knife-like versatility is not suitable for mass deployment. That’s where the forthcoming submarine Khabarovsk, laid down in 2014, comes in.

A Russian flyer reveals the 10,000-ton Khabarovsk resembles a large Borei­-class SSBN, shortened from 170 to roughly 120 meters, but still featuring its very quiet pump jet propulsion. It can carry six or possibly eight Poseidons instead of ballistic missiles. Two large blisters near its bow may be separate pressure hulls, possibly accommodating conventional heavyweight torpedoes for self-defense.

Four Khabarovsk are slated for service in Russia’s Northern (Atlantic) and Pacific fleets. However, Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at the Center for Naval Analysis, wrote in a blog post that oceanic geography would make hitting U.S. West Coast targets more viable:

…I mention Pacific cities [because] a deep diving weapon doesn’t make as much sense coming from Russia via GIUK gap into the Atlantic, simply because of the depths and geographical choke points involved… The Pacific on the other hand lends itself handily to deep diving autonomous weapons if they’re ‘fire and forget.’

A possible successor to the Khabarovsk, the mysterious Project 9853, may also be intended to carry Poseidons.

The Poseidon is the largest torpedo ever built, measuring approximately twenty-four meters long and 1.6-meters in diameter. Using a tiny nuclear reactor to power a pump-jet propulsion system, the Poseidon can traverse thousands of miles across oceans, autonomously navigating around obstacles and evading interception. U.S. intelligence estimates the Poseidon will complete testing by 2025 and enter operational service in 2027.

There remain large question-marks on the Poseidon’s exact capabilities and its operational concept.

The Poseidon has been claimed to be capable of blistering-fast speeds of 100 knots, acoustic stealth, and diving as deep as 1,000 meters.

Of these claims, Poseidon’s low operating depth is considered most credible. By itself, this would render interception extremely difficult with current technology. For comparison, U.S. attack submarines (officially) operate down to 240 meters and travel up to 30 knots. Their Mark 48 torpedoes can accelerate to 55 knots and are not rated for much deeper than 800 meters.

The speed claims appear more dubious. Achieving 100 knots implies super-cavitating propulsion such as used by the Russian Shkval or Iranian Hoot torpedo, which use heat to create an air-bubble around the torpedo so it can race forward without water-induced drag. However, Sutton points out that the Poseidon’s pump jet is not compatible with that, nor does it boast the large steering fins necessary to pierce the bubble for maneuvers.

Instead, both Western analysts and Russian media now claim a more credible speed of 56-70 knots.

Acoustic stealth is also not highly compatible with tearing through the ocean at over a mile a minute. One possibility is that the Poseidon is designed to cruise slowly and stealthily, and then accelerates to high speeds for its terminal approach. However, swimming a kilometer deep at 50-70 knots by itself makes interception extremely difficult using existing NATO systems, so acoustic stealth may not be a priority.

The Poseidon was also initially claimed to carry a gigantic 100-megaton warhead, possibly a cobalt-salt bomb designed to wipe out cities with a radioactive tsunami wave. However, Russian media articles have since admitted a less ridiculous 2-megaton payload employing more conventional kill mechanisms.

Another lingering question is just how autonomous is the Poseidon? The term “drone” implies remote command mechanisms, which are usually desirable in a strategic weapons system. However, a torpedo swimming at the bottom of the seafloor is unlikely to be able to maintain continuous communication links, and will likely advance upon targets with a high degree of autonomy.

What’s the Poseidon even for?

What do Khabarovsk-class SSDNs do for Russia that its existing SSBNs can’t do better? After all, ballistic missiles could hit the United States in a half-hour while drone torpedoes might require days to reach their targets across the ocean.

In an email in 2018, Kofman wrote me that the Poseidon amounted to a “third-strike” revenge weapon, guaranteeing annihilation of an adversary’s coastal cities, even should Russia’s own nuclear forces be annihilated in a first strike. 

Moscow may perceive the Poseidon as a counter to U.S. ballistic-missile defense. Simple math suffices to point out that the roughly fifty-ish GMD ballistic missile interceptors deployed by the United States could not stop Russia’s stockpile of 1,500 nuclear missiles, but Kofman wrote that Russia might fear a precise U.S. first strike could wipe out enough of Russia’s nukes that the survivors left for the second strike could be “mopped up” by mature ABM weapons.

Defending against Poseidon would require an expensive, expanded sea-bed surveillance system and new anti-submarine weapons capable of intercepting such a deep and fast target. A post by Sutton details potential technological counters, including ultra-lightweight anti-torpedo-torpedoes; denser sea-based sonar networks, air-dropped sonars connected by cable or Wi-Fi, and hypersonic missiles used to rapidly deploy torpedo interceptors.

But if the Poseidon has virtually unlimited range, why does it require expensive submarines to launch it at sea rather than from a dock or a coastal platform? Indeed, there may be a “Skif” Poseidon variant designed to be installed for launch from the sea floor.

Putin’s presentation emphasized the Poseidon could be used tactically to wipe out a carrier task force (CFT). However, a CTF is usually moving at 30 knots and musters dense and formidable anti-submarine defenses, unlike a coastal city. Cueing a moving target for missiles like the Chinese DF-21D that can travel many times the speed of sound is already a highly challenging task. Attempting the same operation with an underwater vehicle cruising at 50-100 knots, with weaker communication links, poses an exponentially greater one.

An SSDN, however, could simplify the engagement chain by releasing the Poseidon closer to the carriers. The Poseidon is believed to have an active sonar in its nose, which could be used to map the ocean floor for navigation purposes, but might also enable hunter-killer engagement.

Though the tactical application of the Poseidon still seems difficult to operationalize, it does pose worrying problems in that Russia may escalate to use of tactical nuclear weapons without perceiving those as necessarily provoking a wider strategic nuclear exchange.

While the Poseidon doesn’t fundamentally alter the balance of power, nor the horrifying destructiveness of nuclear war, it does show that humanity is inclined to continue devising ingenious but largely redundant new weapons of mass destruction.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Iran Soon to Break the Nuclear Deal (Daniel 8:4)

Iran vows to ‘soon’ breach uranium stockpile limits

The move would be symbolic but not put the country significantly closer to building a nuclear weapon.

MANAMA, Bahrain — European efforts to persuade Iran to stick within the limits of the nuclear deal have been insufficient and the country will breach uranium stockpile limits “soon,” Tehran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency reported Saturday, a move that could further escalate tensions with the United States.

Iran has been threatening to surpass the limit of 660 pounds of low-enriched uranium that the country is allowed to possess under the nuclear agreement, unless it receives the sanctions relief that the deal promised in return.

Breaching the limit would be a symbolic move but would not put Iran significantly closer to building a nuclear weapon. The 300-kilogram limit of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent is suitable for use in power plants but falls far short of the more than 90 percent enriched uranium needed for fissile material in a nuclear bomb.

The move would come against the backdrop of knife-edge tensions in the region, with President Trump last week saying he had been close to launching a strike on Iran after its forces shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz. The United States has also accused Iran of using magnetic limpet mines to attack petrochemical tankers in the Gulf of Oman – which Tehran denies.

The U.S. Air Force said Friday that it had deployed its most advanced fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, to the region for the first time to “defend American forces and interests.” It published pictures of the planes landing at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar a day earlier.

The United States last year pulled out of the Obama-era nuclear agreement between Tehran and six world powers. Trump, who describes the deal as “rotten,” has since reinstated all sanctions and introduced more, crippling Iran’s economy.

The remaining signatories have attempted to keep the deal alive. But Iran has said that it should no longer be constrained by the terms of the agreement, because it cannot reap any of the benefits as long as international firms worry about violating U.S. sanctions.

European countries say the deal is essential to regional security. Britain, France and Germany have scrambled to launch a complicated barter system in an effort to enable European companies to continue trading with Iran and persuade it to abide by the deal. After a meeting of the remaining signatories Friday in Vienna, the European Union announced that the barter system was operational. Iran had initially welcomed that move as a “positive step” that it would “study.”

On Saturday, an unnamed “informed source” quoted by Fars indicated that the European system had fallen short.

The effort “failed to meet our demands,” the official said. “Iran is determined to cut its commitments to the deal and the 300-kg enriched uranium limit will be soon breached.”

However, Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, did not carry similar statements. An article published by Tasnim, a news outlet close to Iranian hard-liners, questioned whether Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would “fall for the European lollipop again,” indicating that there may still be debate within the Islamic Republic on how to respond.

There is “concern” that the Iranian government will fall for the “defective” move and backtrack from its ultimatum to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal, the article said.


The barter system is limited in scope and aimed at allowing small- to medium-size businesses to continue trading with Iran, with a focus on essentials such as medicines and humanitarian goods, which are not subject to sanctions.

However, Iran has argued that it should also be allowed to sell oil.

Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters Friday in London that any country purchasing Iranian oil would be subject to sanctions.

Iran had previously threatened to breach the stockpile limits by Thursday, before appearing to wait for the results of Friday’s meeting in Vienna.

Palestinians protest Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Palestinians protest on Gaza-Israel fence after truce


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Thousands of Palestinians protested along the volatile Gaza-Israel frontier on Friday, hours after Israel and the territory’s Hamas rulers confirmed an agreement to honor a past cease-fire.

The unofficial truce, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, emphasizes calm in exchange for Israeli measures to improve living conditions in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

But during the protests, Palestinian youths were seen launching incendiary balloons toward Israeli farmland. Others approached the heavily guarded fence at several locations.

Israeli troops opened fire and lobbed tear gas at the demonstrators. Gaza’s health ministry said 19 of them were wounded by live fire.

Earlier on Friday, Israel restored fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant and expanded the permitted fishing zone off the enclave’s coast, easing some recent restrictions.The restrictions had been placed in response to the balloons that recently sparked wildfires in southern Israel.

An Israeli official confirmed Palestinian reports that Israel had resumed fuel deliveries that were cut off earlier this week, and extended the fishing zone up to 15 nautical miles from 10 nautical miles.

The official said that in return, the Hamas militant group which rules Gaza “promised to halt the attacks on Israel,” a reference to the balloons and marches along the border. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.

Hamas said it “won’t allow the occupation to retreat” from cease-fire terms.

In May, Hamas and Israel exchanged rockets and airstrikes in the worst round of cross-border violence since a 2014 war. The mediators try to defuse tension by pacifying the border to prevent the two sides from plunging into what would be the fourth full-fledged war since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007.

USA’s Fukushima At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)


Ernie Garcia, elgarcia@lohud.com

A review of unplanned shutdowns from January 2012 to the present showed this year’s events happened within a short time frame, between May 7 and July 8, in contrast with events from other years that were more spread out, according to data released by Indian Point.

If a nuclear plant has more than three unplanned shutdowns in a nine-month period, its performance indicator could be changed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which results in additional oversight. That’s what happened with Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., after four unplanned shutdowns in 2013.

So far, Entergy said there doesn’t appear to be a pattern to the Indian Point shutdowns.

“You do want to look at these events holistically to see if there is something in common, but you also look individually to see what the causes were,” Nappi said. “A plant shutdown in and of itself is not a safety issue.”

One of the four recent Buchanan shutdowns triggered a special inspection by the NRC and calls to close the nuclear plant by environmental groups and elected officials. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said in the past Indian Point should close, but his office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the recent shutdowns have prompted any state scrutiny.

The NRC is expected to release a quarterly report on Indian Point this month that will address the transformer failure and, by year’s end, is planning an inspection of the transformer and an analysis of transformer issues since 2007.

Besides its transformer-related inquiries, the other three shutdowns have not raised “any immediate safety concerns or crossed any thresholds that would result in additional NRC oversight,” agency spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an email.

The unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point and Pilgrim in Massachusetts were mostly preventable, said Paul Blanch, a former Indian Point employee with 45 years of nuclear power experience.

“For this to happen this frequently indicates a deeper problem,” he said. “I believe it’s management oversight in the maintenance of these plants.”

Nappi said the transformer that failed May 9 and caused a fire and oil spill into the Hudson was regularly monitored. Investigators determined the failure was due to faulty insulation.

“The transformer inspection and reviews were in accordance with our standards and industry expectations, yet there was no indication the transformer was going to fail,” Nappi said.

The NRC conducted a separate, but related special inspection into the May 9 incident that focused on a half-inch of water that collected in an electrical switchgear room floor. Inspectors determined a fire suppression system’s valve failed to close properly.

Inspectors noted in their report that Entergy knew about that problem since April 2011 and replaced the valve but didn’t discover the actual cause — a dysfunctional switch — until after the fire.

Indian Point’s Unit 3 was down 19 days May through July, with the transformer failure accounting for 16 days. The shutdowns didn’t cause the public any supply problems because New York’s grid can import electricity from other states and New York has an energy plan to maintain reliability, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The nuclear energy industry judges a power plant on how continuously it produces energy, which is called a capacity factor.

There were 100 nuclear plants in the United States in 2014, a record year in terms of efficiency. In January, the Nuclear Energy Institute announced the U.S. average capacity factor was 91.9 percent.

Indian Point has an above-average efficiency rate. The plant’s Unit 2 and 3 reactors were each online more than 99 percent of the time during their most recent two-year operating cycles. They are currently in the middle of other cycles.

UK Soon to Join Babylon the Great (Daniel 7)

Iran To Exceed Uranium Enrichment Limits. Should U.K. Leave Nuclear Deal?

Iran confirms it will breach the nuclear deal by speeding up enrichment of uranium. NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to Karen Pierce, the U.K.’s ambassador to the U.N., about how the deal will be affected.


What do Europeans do now that Iran has begun going beyond the limits of a nuclear deal, or says that it will? Iran has been enriching uranium, an activity that is allowed but sharply limited under that agreement from 2015. Today is the day when Iran said it would go beyond the amount of enriched uranium it’s allowed to have on hand. Remember. This is a deal the United States withdrew from but that other world powers and Iran would like to keep. The U.K. is still in the deal, and we’ve called the U.K. ambassador to the United Nations, Karen Pierce, who’s on the line from New York.

Ambassador, good morning.

KAREN PIERCE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Do you regard Iran as going out of compliance with the deal today?

PIERCE: I haven’t seen anything from New York that suggests that that has actually happened. But of course, that’s what Iran said it would do today, 27 June. But the next step, in any case, would be for the International Atomic Energy Authority to confirm what, if anything, Iran has actually done.

INSKEEP: Well, let’s suppose they go beyond that limit. Then we’ve got to figure out what to think of it. It seems obvious that means they’re out of compliance with the deal. They’re not following the deal. But Iran’s United Nations ambassador told us on this program the other day, wait a minute. Actually, there’s a provision that allows us to start going out of compliance exceeding the limits in this way if other signatories to the deal are not keeping up their end of the bargain. And you’re not. Do you agree that Europe is not keeping its end of the bargain here to provide economic benefit to Iran?

PIERCE: No, Europe is trying very hard to stand up its end of the deal. I won’t disguise from you, it’s difficult because of the U.N. sanctions. And we said in the Security Council yesterday that we regretted the fact that the deal couldn’t be implemented in full. But the Europeans have set up a special purpose vehicle to get humanitarian and other supplies to Iran. And we believe very firmly Iran should stay in the deal. There’s still enough in the deal, and it’s important for global nonproliferation, as well, that the deal is upheld and that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.

INSKEEP: Would you explain this special purpose vehicle, Ambassador? You’ve got some kind of bank or institution that’s going to try to sell stuff to Iran without running afoul of U.S. sanctions? Is that right?

PIERCE: It’s more a vehicle that money goes into and goods can be supplied under it. It’s not intended to contravene U.S. sanctions. On the contrary, it’s intended to provide a line for vital supplies to Iran. But I just want, if I may, Steve, to go back to this point about compliance.


PIERCE: The Iranians often make the argument that because X has done something, they’re entitled to also not do something that they ought to do under the deal. And we don’t accept that argument. But the deal itself did envisage a circumstance in which Iran might fall out of compliance. And there are mechanisms in the deal itself whereby the participants get together and try to figure out a way to bring Iran back into compliance. So it’s not the end of the story even if Iran has breached. But obviously, that would be a very worrying development.

INSKEEP: So you’re saying that there are provisions that would be like mediation or going to court, and you could press Iran to go back within compliance if, in fact, they go out today. Is that right?

PIERCE: There’s similar provisions to that. They’re not actually going to court.


PIERCE: It’s more about the deal’s participants working this out themselves. But as I say, it was certainly envisaged that one day, we might face this situation. And there are dispute resolution mechanisms within the deal itself that would enable us to get together, discuss with Iran, try to work out how to bring her back into compliance.

INSKEEP: As you know very well, Ambassador, the United States keeps adding more sanctions on Iran and tightening oil and other sanctions on Iran. And their goal – well, we could argue about the goal, but it’s certainly to undermine this deal in every way possible. Do you think this deal is still survivable, that it’s sustainable?

PIERCE: Well, I won’t disguise from you the fact that it is tricky to keep the deal going in the circumstances you describe. Nevertheless, we remain committed to it. The other participants, who include Russia, China, France and Germany, as well as Iran, remain committed to it. It’s vital for European but also regional security. And it’s a really important commitment to help global nonproliferation. So we want to do everything we can to keep the deal intact.

That’s not to say we don’t agree with the American administration about Iran’s behavior in the region, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen and also in the Gulf. But for Europeans, those are two separate things and easier to tackle the second if Iran is in the nuclear deal.

INSKEEP: Karen Pierce, U.K. ambassador to the U.N., thanks.

PIERCE: Thank you.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.